Author Topic: Would you buy a car at an auction?  (Read 1755 times)

Monkey Uncle

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Would you buy a car at an auction?
« on: November 06, 2016, 08:37:34 AM »
I'm in the market for a "new" (old, cheap) pickup truck to replace the one that I recently sold before it crumbled into a pile of rust. 

(Please, no lectures about how un-mustachian pickup trucks are.  I don't use mine for commuting; I use it for hauling firewood and typically put less than a thousand miles a year on it.  I've done the math comparing truck costs to heating costs, and it pencils out in favor of owning a truck, as long as it's a cheap, old one.  Plus I get free exercise).

I've been cruising craigslist for several weeks and I'm coming up empty.  I'm running into two issues:

1) Any truck that doesn't have fairly serious issues is priced well above the KBB private party value and/or the NADA low retail value.  Even some of the ones that do have issues are priced pretty high.  The folks I've asked have been reluctant to back off much.

2) I have yet to encounter a seller who has owned the subject truck for more than a year.  It seems everyone is a car flipper, off the books dealer, or someone who got buyer's remorse.  So none of them are able to tell me much of anything meaningful about the history of the trucks.

Since it appears that I'm going to have to rely on my own inspection to determine whether the truck is something I want to buy, I'm wondering if I might as well go to a public car auction to see if I can get a better price.  I've heard all the stories about how everything that is sold at auction is a total piece of junk that is just waiting to have a major mechanical failure while it is being driven home.  But is an auction car any worse than something you would buy from a private party?  I talking old stuff here - everything that I'm looking at is at least 12 years old.

Would you consider buying a car at an auction?


terran

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Re: Would you buy a car at an auction?
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2016, 08:42:19 AM »
If you've ever bought a car from a used car dealer chances are you bought a car from auction (I used to work for one and that's where they got almost all their cars). I think what it comes down to is how confident you are in your ability to check the car out mechanically yourself and to place a value on the car in a short time frame. If you can't do both of those I would skip it and go with a buying option that lets you figure out what the car should be worth and get it checked out by a trusted mechanic.

StartingEarly

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Re: Would you buy a car at an auction?
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2016, 12:01:09 PM »
If you know what you are doing it can work out well. My friend got a bmw that was worth around 10-15k because it was a strange model year so it was actually the highest trim but didn't present as such and also it didn't start and I think it needed a new battery or something stupid like that.

bobechs

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Re: Would you buy a car at an auction?
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2016, 12:08:37 PM »
If the price and condition (or price for condition) are right, sure.

Paying a premium for the excitement of bidding in... that would be foolish.

ETA: 

1. make quite sure from the beginning that you know exactly what the out-the-door price will be at the auction (i.e. what commissions, premiums and fees will be added to the winning bid.)

2. be aware of shilling or other manipulated bid practices at a given auction that may cause you to bid more than the authentic market-closing price.

3. be skeptical of vehicle auctions open to the general public.   They can be OK, but some say (I am one..) that it is worth the trouble and expense to hook up with a frequent buyer (i.e. 'dealer') who is willing to bid on your behalf on his ticket.  If you do this be sure to see 1. above.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2016, 12:22:05 PM by bobechs »

TaxChick

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Re: Would you buy a car at an auction?
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2016, 02:17:33 PM »
I echo the sentiment about the public auction. My mechanic is a "dealer" and as such has access to the non-public auctions. I was able to obtain a much better deal than at a dealership. 

Monkey Uncle

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Re: Would you buy a car at an auction?
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2016, 03:28:09 PM »
If you've ever bought a car from a used car dealer chances are you bought a car from auction (I used to work for one and that's where they got almost all their cars). I think what it comes down to is how confident you are in your ability to check the car out mechanically yourself and to place a value on the car in a short time frame. If you can't do both of those I would skip it and go with a buying option that lets you figure out what the car should be worth and get it checked out by a trusted mechanic.

I'm not much of a mechanic, but I know enough about cars and trucks to check fluids and crawl under them to look for leaks and rust.  Most importantly, I pay attention to anything that doesn't look, sound, feel, or smell right when I start it up and test drive it.  So my biggest hesitation with auctions is that most do not allow test driving.  The ones I've checked out generally have a "green lane" for sales of vehicles that are supposed to be in running condition.  But as far as I can tell, you have no recourse if something blows up after you drive the vehicle off the lot.

I don't really have the option of getting a vehicle checked out by a mechanic.  I live in a small town in a rural area, and most used vehicles for sale are located at least a 1 1/2 hour drive away. 

Monkey Uncle

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Re: Would you buy a car at an auction?
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2016, 03:32:57 PM »
3. be skeptical of vehicle auctions open to the general public.   They can be OK, but some say (I am one..) that it is worth the trouble and expense to hook up with a frequent buyer (i.e. 'dealer') who is willing to bid on your behalf on his ticket.  If you do this be sure to see 1. above.

I am casually acquainted with a guy who has a dealer's license and goes to auctions on occasion.  But I don't think I know him well enough to ask him to go to an auction on my behalf (at least a 3 hour drive away) without adding in his dealer's profit, which would defeat the purpose of buying at an auction.

And thanks for the other advice.  I've seen that it is going to be tricky keeping track of all the fees that the auction house adds on.  As far as letting the bidding get away from me, I'm not the excitable type, and I do my due diligence prior to making any major purchase.  So I don't think I will have any issues there, but I've never actually bought anything at an auction before, so who knows...
« Last Edit: November 06, 2016, 03:35:36 PM by Monkey Uncle »